As more mainstream businesses recognise the value of the ‘Lycra pound’, Jet2.com has become the first budget airline to offer dedicated cycling holidays.
It is seeking to exploit the spending power of UK cyclists, who invested £745 million in their hobby last year, according to economic analyst Mintel. Recent research suggests that cycling holidays are now more popular than golf breaks.
Fashion brands such as Ted Baker, Levi’s and Paul Smith already target this lucrative market with cycling-specific clothing ranges, while the latest TV ads from the Bank of Scotland and BMW are unashamedly aimed at well-heeled road cyclists. Elsewhere, everyone from Jaguar cars to 21st Century Fox is jumping on the Team Sky bandwagon.
Now the battle for the Lycra pound has taken to the skies. Jet2.com is leading the way, but other airlines have either increased their weight allowances for bikes, streamlined the booking process or promoted more cycling features in their in-flight magazines.
All of which is a far cry from the bad old days — before Sir Bradley Wiggins became a household name — when budget airlines generally treated cyclists with a degree of contempt normally reserved for bankers or politicians.
For example, while you had to look under “Carpet Bowls and Surfboards” for information on how to book your bike on a flight with Monarch Airlines, the process with Jet2.com used to be even more complex, involving premium rate telephone calls to a call centre in South Africa and hidden ‘drop-off’ fees of £6 each way on top of the £30 carriage charge.
Things weren’t much better at EasyJet or Ryanair where big prices or tiny weight allowances made transporting your bike by air a costly affair.
But now Leeds-based Jet2.com, inspired by this year’s Yorkshire Grand Départ of the Tour de France, is offering a range of cycling holidays to destinations including Majorca, the Canary Islands and mainland Spain. The company’s CEO Steve Heapy puts it down to simple business sense: “Cycling is seeing an increase in popularity on the back of the UK’s Olympic legacy and the Grand Départ in Yorkshire. It therefore made sense to cater for this growing demand by launching bespoke cycling holidays to some of the most popular biking destinations in Europe.”
Rival airlines haven’t ruled out following suit. EasyJet, which earlier this year reinstated its 32kg weight allowance for bikes following protests after it was reduced to 23kg, told CW: “We do recognise that there are opportunities for growth in that area and it is something we will be considering for the future.”
Ryanair told us: “We’ll always consider any improvements to our customer experience.”
So what is the Jet2 Cycling Holiday experience actually like? CW was invited to trial a holiday on Lanzarote, staying at the four-star Costa Calero hotel which offered bike hire (at a supplement), storage and a workshop. The hotel, its three outdoor pools, gym and all-you-can-eat buffets for breakfast and dinner, were a cyclist’s dream.
The BMC hire bikes were excellent, though the fitting offered to one member of our party wasn’t particularly good. Route information was also a bit vague, with one distance given as “about 50km” when in reality it was only 29km.
We were offered a guided ride but opted to do our own thing, heading out for a 125km circuit around the north of the island and the stunning Mirador del Rio viewpoint. The highest road on the island is a mere 600m, but the terrain is lumpy enough to ensure a decent workout.
With a bit more thought about route options, Jet2.com could quickly become the cyclist’s favourite airline.
A week-long package with flights for two people at the Costa Calero Hotel in Lanzarote with Jet2 Holidays would cost £1,500 (all-inclusive) or £1,242 (B&B) next February. Bike hire from the hotel starts at €120 a week, though we found Peter at www.lanzarote-cycling.com (same price, free delivery) to be more knowledgeable about routes. More info at: jet2holidays.com and jet2.com.
Airline charges for bikes (per flight):
Monarch Airlines £25 (30kg)
Jet2.com £30 (30kg)
EasyJet £35 (32kg)
Ryanair £50 (30kg)
Original article by Trevor Ward